Intimacy research shows desire to be understood

U professors interviewed 27 women and 10 men for the study.

by Jane Campbell

In relationships, people tend to want all the information about their partner but are reluctant to share anything about themselves, according to new University of Minnesota research.

A study of 37 adults ages 22 to 78 showed that in relationships, people often hide personal failings while also wanting to be understood, often using means like social media to investigate romantic partners.

College of Education and Human Development professors Paul Rosenblatt and Elizabeth Wieling released their findings last week in a book titled “Knowing and Not Knowing in Intimate Relationships.”

The study is the first of its kind, Rosenblatt said.

Rosenblatt and Wieling conducted interviews with the 27 women and 10 men who participated in the study.

In interviews, participants said they’d investigated their partner’s habits through social media and the partner’s acquaintances.

“Sometimes [researching online] establishes an initial trust before a first date,” Rosenblatt said.

Annika Yan, retail merchandising senior, said she thinks using social media to learn more about a date is a good thing.

“It helps you get to know someone before,” she said.

Rosenblatt said he was surprised by how many people “systematically” investigated partners online.

At the same time, participants said they’d hide certain aspects of their lives from their partner, including
money or personal failures.

“Sometimes those hidden things were things that they might not even want to tell themselves,” Rosenblatt said.

How “threatening” the information is to the relationship also influences disclosure to the partner, he said.

“Some experts say you should be totally honest,” he said. “I don’t necessarily agree.” Men and women participants differed in their perceptions of intimacy, which Rosenblatt said didn’t surprise him.

According to the study, they disagreed on the definition of intimacy.

“When we asked men what intimacy means, they usually said sex,” Rosenblatt said. “Women never said that.”

Understandings of intimacy also included emotional interactions with a partner.

“Some women hungered to be [understood] more than men,” Rosenblatt said. “Some men felt like they were being pushed to express feelings.”

He also said people may keep negative things from their partner so they’re viewed in a more positive light.

“People want others to think of them as a likable, decent person,” Rosenblatt said. “They also want to think of themselves that way.”